Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Keyboard warriors

The pen is mightier than the sword, it's said - but is the cyberattack mightier than the suicide bombing? We may be about to find out, now that Anonymous has declared war on IS, promising their "biggest campaign ever". France's apparent determination to lash out with air strikes in retaliation for the Paris attacks, with support from the US and the UK, is understandable - but waging virtual warfare, which doesn't risk civilian deaths, may prove a more effective course of action.

Anonymous' declaration may sit slightly awkwardly with the collective's somewhat anarchic roots, in that it involves alignment with the Western establishment, but it indicates that the hacktivists consider the defence of freedom of speech and action to be more important.

What Western governments and citizens make of this will also be interesting. Until now, hackers have often been portrayed as bogeymen on a par with IS, a shadowy and dangerous threat to security both national and personal (witness the recent TalkTalk hack). Now, Anonymous members are putting themselves forwards as protectors or guarantors of that security. Of course, an undemocratically elected organisation capable of wielding such power remains potentially troubling, but there may nevertheless be a subtle shift in public perceptions.

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